Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Gift

The psychologist closed her notebook, and leaned over to nudge the dozing man on the couch.

"Feeling better?" she asked. He blinked, stifled a yawn, then wiped his face before standing up.

"I don't know how you do it Doc," he said, putting on his coat, "Thank you for seeing me today." He looked at her sheepishly, knowing it was Christmas Eve and yet she had taken his emergency call anyway.

They shook hands and confirmed his next appointment, and then the man left. When she closed the office door behind him, she went back to her chair and sunk into the soft cushions, letting the residuals of the session bubble inside her. It had been a difficult one, deeply painful and taking a long time to settle down. She reminded herself to breathe slowly and feel her feet planted firmly on the floor. This was his pain, not hers. His nightmare, not hers.

She finished her relaxation exercises and sat quietly for several minutes, glad that he was the only patient who needed her, this of all days. Still, something was niggling and not letting go of her. She didn't want to open the notebook, to write down the last of her thoughts about the session alongside whatever may already reside there. It was still too powerful and close to the surface.

She knew she needed to get some distance and so she finally stood, straightened the couch pillows, locked up the office and walked out into the night. It smelled like snow and she breathed the crisp, fresh air as deeply as her lungs would allow. Winter was always a good time for her, the cold helped her to compartmentalize all that she had absorbed during a session.

As she walked down the street, she heard a lonely bell ringing and stopped to drop her spare change into the red bucket. "Bless you my dear," said the Santa impersonator, and the tinkling sound faded as she walked on. She went into the coffee shop around the corner, thankful it was still open, and waved to the familiar woman behind the counter.

"The usual, Mary?" the Barista asked. Mary nodded and the Barista began preparing a mug of hot chocolate with cream and topped with marshmallows. Mary sat down, hoping the comfort of cocoa would help settle whatever it was that was still bothering her. She nodded her thanks when the Barista set the mug on the table, smiling at the welcome addition of a peppermint stick.

"Ho ho ho!" came a voice, booming through the shop. A chill swept in from the opened door and Mary looked up, surprised to see the Santa come in and sit himself down at her table, directly across from her.

"And what do you want for Christmas, my dear Mary," whispered the Santa, leaning in too close. She shivered, having felt it the moment he had walked in and now the strange and scary feeling was staring into her eyes. She sipped from her mug before gently setting it down and cradling it in her hands, hoping she appeared calm and unthreatening.

"Peace," she replied. A simple request, yet behind it was all that she had collected from her last patient. All the horror that he had unknowingly bequeathed to her so that he could go back to his family as if he had never had those crazy thoughts, those terrible desires.

A wave of emotion suddenly passed between them, and the man in the red suit pushed back his chair. His eyes widened and he began to tremble. He rose quickly and was out the door before she could offer him a tissue.

"Geezus," the Barista said, "I was just about to call the cops. Are you okay?"

"I..." Mary hesitated, "Yes, I think I am. Thank you." She loosened her grip on the mug of cocoa and let the strangeness overwhelm her. She had not felt this way in a very, very long time. It was as if someone had just swept her house clean. In fact, it was a complete and utter lack of feeling, and it was wonderful.


The man in the Santa suit stood on the sidewalk for what he hoped would be a short time. He rang his little bell and nodded as each passerby dropped their spare change into the little red bucket. He nervously looked at his watch. Half past eleven he spotted a man coming out of the building, who quickly walked by without bothering to acknowledge the ringing of the bell. The Santa sighed and shook his head.

Several minutes later, the woman he was waiting for came out of the building. He watched her stop to button up her coat and take a deep breath of the cold air. The Santa gently rang his bell as she walked towards him, and thanked her after she stopped and dropped in some change. He watched her as she walked off. Then, silencing the bell and not bothering with the red bucket, he followed her to the coffee shop and waited outside for a few moments before entering.

It wasn't long after when he ran out and down the street, and off into the forest parkland. Tears were falling and forming icicles in his beard. He held onto his stomach for as long as he could, long enough for him to find his way back to where he'd left his ride. He was just able to climb into the seat before he leaned over the side and retched. Minutes passed before the retching eased, and he finally rested his head on the back of the seat.

A red light blinked towards him, and he looked up to see all nine reindeer peering worriedly at him. He spat the last of the bile over the side and then picked up the reins and whistled.

"On Prancer, Dancer, Donner and Vixen!" he shouted and then gently snapped the reins. It was his first gift of the evening, and there were plenty more that still needed giving.

<word count: 1011>

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, your short stories are just getting better and better. thanks for managing to find the time in between your baking spells.